Ulster SFC preview: Red Hands to swat away all comers

May 11, 2018

Donegal and Cavan begin the race for the Anglo Celt Cup at Ballybofey on Sunday.

Cliché tells us that Ulster is the most competitive province but clichés are not always strictly true. Shocks have been few and far between in recent years - Down's toppling of Monaghan last year was a notable exception - and the gap between the haves and the have-nots has seemed to be widening, if anything.

This year, though, that may well change. Of the nine sides involved, eight could draw plenty of positives from their league campaigns. Antrim competed strongly, albeit in the basement, Armagh and Fermanagh were promoted from Division 3, Cavan escaped Division 2 and Monaghan and Tyrone were third and fourth respectively in the top flight.

Even Donegal will feel they were unlucky to be relegated from Division 1, having lost by a point to Kerry and Galway and drawn with Mayo.

Derry and Down are the outliers. Again, the Oak Leafers' slump to Division 4 seems too bad to be true and with the Slaughtneil contingent back, they will be a different animal while the Mourne men were unlucky with injuries and only went down on score difference on six points.

The meeting of Cavan and Donegal this Sunday in Ballybofey is intriguing and the winners will fancy themselves to make an Ulster final, with two teams from next year's Division 4 and one from Division 2 lying in wait.

The top half of the draw is a minefield, though. The Erne against the Orchard will be a toss-up (neither showed their hand in the league final), as will Monaghan and champions Tyrone.

Predictions:

Champions: Tyrone 

Runners-up: Donegal

Odds (supplied by Ladbrokes): Tyrone 5/4; Donegal 3/1; Monaghan 9/2; Down 11/1; Armagh 11/1; Cavan 14/1; Derry 25/1; Fermanagh 33/1; Antrim 100/1

Fixtures:

May 13: Preliminary round: Donegal v Cavan, MacCumhaill Park

May 19: Quarter-final: Fermanagh v Armagh, Brewster Park

May 20: Quarter-final: Tyrone v Monaghan, Healy Park

May 26: Quarter-final: Down v Antrim, Páirc Esler

May 27: Quarter-final: Derry v Donegal/Cavan, Celtic Park or St Tiernach's Park

June 3: Semi-final A

June 10: Semi-final B

June 24: Final

Be sure to follow the hoganstand.com Live Match Tracker this weekend for all the latest action from the senior football and hurling championships.



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